Jewish Congress members circulate letter urging Israel not to demolish Palestinian villages


WASHINGTON (JTA) — Two Jewish Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives are circulating a letter among their colleagues that would urge Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to stop the planned demolition of Palestinian villages.

“The destruction and displacement of such communities would run counter to shared US and Israeli values, while further undermining long-term Israeli security, Palestinian dignity, and the prospects for peacefully achieving two states for two peoples,” says the letter co-authored by Reps. John Yarmuth, D-Ky., and Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill. “Instead of forcibly evicting Palestinian communities, we encourage your government to fairly re-evaluate their requests for building rights.”

Yarmuth and Schakowsky sent the letter to their colleagues on Thursday seeking additional signatures.

Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman has said Israel plans to demolish a large part of Susiya, a small village near Hebron, because building there was unauthorized. The letter mentions plans to demolish “other similarly situated Palestinian communities in the West Bank.”

It says the demolitions are especially egregious in light of Jewish settlement expansion in the West Bank.

“The forcible eviction of Palestinian communities and the expansion of settlements in areas of the West Bank, which would become part of a future Palestinian state, abandon our two countries’ shared values of justice and respect for human rights,” the letter says. “These actions unilaterally change facts on the ground and jeopardize the prospects of a two-state solution. This endangers Israel’s future as a Jewish democracy and prohibitively impacts Palestinian’s national aspirations.”

The letter is similar to one sent last year to Netanyahu by 10 senators, all Democrats. It also was spearheaded by two Jewish senators in the Democratic caucus: Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.